The resurgence of the strong female lead

TV editor Amy Brown examines the status of women in today's film industry both on and off the screen

Amy K Brown
23rd September 2019
Youtub: TV Promos

The plight to create diverse casts on TV appears to be improving every day.  

Living in 2019, the need for representation is more important than ever. In the last research cycle, women made up only 40 percent of speaking roles on broadcast networks and streaming services. The percentages of women of colour are even lower. The idea of the “strong female lead” has a certain stigma attached to it. Some characters that fit into this box, frequently written by men, end up being far-fetched and not actually relatable to female viewers. We need real, not perfect.  Improvements still need to be made, but we are going to take this opportunity to celebrate the representation we have so far. 

The creation of director and actress Phoebe-Waller Bridge is a standout. She writes, produces and stars in Fleabag. The sitcom follows a woman battling loss, a complicated family and unhealthy coping mechanisms. The character, of which we never are given the real name, is entirely realistic. She is deeply honest and even unlikeable at times. Known for often breaking the fourth wall, Fleabag has a voice like no other. She is witty, flawed and unapologetically herself. Nothing is off limits in Fleabag.  

A newer show on the scene, Pose, explores African-American and Latinx LGBTQ+ culture in New York City in the 1980s and ‘90s. It focuses on ballroom culture, a safe space for LGBTQ+ people at this time. This show has many strong characters all worth discussing, but the support system of the show is Blanca Rodriguez- Evangelista, portrayed by Mj Rodriguez. She is a trans woman living with HIV/AIDS and acts as a mother to multiple young people rejected by their own families. She does everything to teach, love and nurture her family while dealing with her own struggles and living in a world that rejects her. This show on FX Network is finally providing mainstream exposure for this community. Pose is essential representation and a truly revolutionary TV show.  

Sweeping the 2019 BAFTA Television Awards was BBC spy thriller Killing Eve. This breakout show that began in 2018 is carried by its female leads, Jodie Comer as Villanelle and Sandra Oh as Eve Polastri. This work tackles a traditionally male-dominated genre with women in charge and it does so brilliantly. They take on an area of TV often riddled with misogyny and smash through damaging stereotypes whilst creating a thrilling work with unmatched performances.  

The future continues to look positive for diversity in TV and we can only keep pushing so future generations of young people can feel represented and heard. 

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AUTHOR: Amy K Brown
Head of Culture. @akathrynbrwn on Twitter.

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